Thanking the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act
November 22, 2023 •iSportsman Staff
Late last week, the Biden administration released a statement saying they intend on upholding the Trump administration’s policy on removing the gray wolf from the list of endangered species. This moment of bipartisanship is refreshing but not unpredictable, it was the Trump administration that vowed to uphold the Obama administration’s stance on removing the protection of the gray wolf in the first place.
“It isn’t a shock at all,” said Mark Holyoak, director of communication in an exclusive interview with iSportsman. “It isn’t a matter of politics; it is a matter of science.”
The mid-20th century saw the American gray wolf population dwindle to the point of concern among conservationists. The drafting of the Endangered Species Act and their inclusion on the list afforded the gray wolf population strong protections against hunting until they “biologically recovered.”
So, the question is: Has the gray wolf population recovered?
“Biologically, yes,” Holyoak say. “The gray wolf population was declared biologically recovered in the 1990s. All scientists agree that they reached their quota years ago. Not only that, but certain populations are well above their state plans for a healthy population.”
The gray wolf population varies from state to state, but across the country, there is a prominent trend of their numbers increasing exponentially, with the population sitting somewhere in the range of 6,000 to 16,000 in the lower 48 states.
It’s important to note that wolves in general are elusive creatures, so calculating the exact number is virtually impossible. However, in recent years, there have been some troubling signs because of the return of the wolves.
“The effect the gray wolf has on livestock is worthy of note,” says Holyoak. “The strong presence of the gray wolf induces stress on livestock, resulting in thinner, less healthy animals.”
Not to mention the effect the rising gray wolf population has had on the moose population. In some areas, we are seeing dips of as much as 65 percent on the moose population.”
While there may be some debate between hunters and anti-hunters over the extent of the wolf’s effect on moose and elk populations, asserting that an increase in the number of predators in a region has an effect on prey seems logical. There is no disputing, however, the gray wolf’s impact on farmers and their livestock. This has left many farmers disgruntled as they feel as though they have no say over the rising population.
“People who have never set foot in states like Montana or Colorado end up making these decisions–people who will never see or feel the consequences of their decisions,” says Holyoak.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation announced its support for the USFWS ruling on the gray wolf ban. Opposition to this new ruling came swiftly with anti-hunters calling it “a cheap win for hunters” and a “conservationist setback”. But conservation groups are just as quick to set the record straight.
“It couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Holyoak. “Every hunter is different of course, but a vast majority of them have a tremendous appreciation for the lay of the land. When it comes to conservation, where do the dollars come from? It was largely hunters who advocated for an increase in taxes on ammunition and hunting gear. Permits, licenses, tags—these are where most of your conservation funds come from.”
With that in mind, hunters and sporting groups have a huge say in the management of species, particularly those hunters out West where gray wolves roam, and who have seen first-hand the damage growing packs are increasingly responsible for and the hit game species have suffered as a result.
The Biden Administration filed a final ruling to remove the gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Species on August 20, 2021.